In Josephine County, Democrats are lonely but hopeful

By Julie Rubenstein of Grants Pass, Oregon. Julie is running unopposed in the Democratic primary for House District 3. She'll face GOP Rep. Ron Maurer in November.

It's lonely down here being a Democrat. This feeling was punctuated by reading Kristin Teigen's post last month about the embarrassment of riches that Democratic voters will have to choose from in House District 42 this primary season. If I hadn't got my arm twisted into running, there wouldn't have been a Democrat on the ballot at all for either of Josephine County's two house seats. As it is, I'm the "urban" candidate for the district encompassing, basically, the city of Grants Pass. But in the rural parts of the county, if incumbent Dennis Richardson can dispatch his only challenger on May 20 then he can sail on into an assured general election without opposition. Interesting how there's even an urban-rural divide within a rural county.

The bigger urban-rural divide, of course, is within the entire state. Rural Organizing Project, a wonderful group that tries to instill progressive thinking into Oregon counties that don't lie within the Willamette Valley, recently published a piece on the increasing Republican hold on rural Americans, Oregonians in particular. It doesn't help that urban Democrats in the Legislature have cut off rural economic development funds and that the Governor shut down the Office of Rural Policy, even if its effectiveness was questionable. It's all in the appearances, and it appears that Republicans have even more reason to resent the Democrats in Salem who are, by and large, from the cities. Rural Democrats in particular are having a tough time even screwing up their courage to run for public office, figuring they'll be trampled by outsize Republican majorities.

In my county, Democrats are 30% of registered voters, while Republicans have 45% and Non-Affiliateds are at 21%. Yet there are a few reasons why I've got some hope of making a good showing this year. The typical Oregon voter in these parts, Democrat or Republican, takes pride in being a maverick if they think much about politics at all. They still revere the likes of Hatfield and even Packwood. Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith are equally popular down here. You'll find Republicans who are pro-choice, and Democrats who are hard-line tax cutters or social conservatives. I was encouraged recently to learn that the Republican Women's Club closed down due to dwindling attendance, while the Democratic Women's Luncheon, born in 2004, is still going strong.

Finally, of course, there's the thorough disgust with what a botch the President and his allies in Congress have made of the nation as a whole. Rural folks and farmers have not prospered under this Administration and many are questioning whether their party truly represents their interests. (It doesn't, of course - it represents the interests of wealthy elitists - though the Republican spin doctors will have you believe those are all in Obama's camp.) People are starting to care more about the pain of losing so much butter to the guns in Iraq. in Josephine County, we're losing more than 1/3 of our county's operating budget once O&C funds disappear this summer - a program that could have continued had not the federal budget been pillaged by war and irresponsible tax cuts. They resent the war and want it to end, and they're flirting with the idea of voting in the "D" column this year for President, if Obama wins the nomination. Maybe when they pick up that ballot in the fall they'll even consider voting for other Democrats, if we can speak intelligently on ways to address the critical need for rural economic development, for affordable housing and health care. Maybe they'll sit up and listen if we promise to enlist our urban counterparts to participate in solutions for the entire state, offering the hope of bi-partisan cooperation from a standpoint of shared values. Maybe that will appeal to those mavericks.

So even though it's lonely down here, there's still hope for at least a lively debate and a fighting chance.

Comments

  • Jill Thorn (unverified)
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    Great post! Do you have an account set up on Act Blue for people to make donations?

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    Thanks for this one Julie, and thanks for running. The much ballyhooed 50 state strategy is worthless unless we have a 60 house district strategy.

    I get it that the odds are impossibly long, but there's always a surprise or two in any election cycle. Here's hoping that you're the one this time.

    Best to the ROP warriors in your area. My pal Dancer comes to mind for one.

  • Timothy Burleson (unverified)
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    FYI - Dennis Richardson is now running opposed. His only challenger, Ron Schutz, of Grants Pass, was disqualified as a candidate because he lives a block or two outside of the district.

  • Timothy Burleson (unverified)
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    Sorry, that should read "unopposed" in the previous comment.

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    The voter registration numbers in neighboring Jackson County have inched up. The FORMER Republican stronghold whom I refer to as the "Lady wearing Red" is now wearing a purple hat.

    Democrats 37% Republicans 40% Other: 23%

    We are challenging ourselves to register 3% more Democrats in Jackson County by November 4th. The Republicans in Jackson County haven't published a newsletter since January.

    Best wishes Julie. By the way there is a write-in candidate for the Richardson race. His name is Keith Wangle, great progressive registered and non-affiliated.

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    Ms. Lynn Howe is running without another Democrat on the Democratic ticket, like Julie. She is looking to replace Rep. Sal Esquival, House District 6, mostly Medford precincts.

    Sal won by only 800 votes two years ago. Sal does not support Basic Rights for domestic partnerships and has a track record of votes candidate Howe can easily discuss with voters. We're going to pull out all the stops to send Lynn to Salem!!!

  • Sal Peralta (unverified)
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    FYI - Dennis Richardson is now running opposed. His only challenger, Ron Schutz, of Grants Pass, was disqualified as a candidate because he lives a block or two outside of the district.

    That's untrue. Keith Wangle is running hard against Richardson as an Independent. Keith is a Brown University Grad, and magna cum laude at Central Point High School. He is a local small business owner, and a helluva good candidate.

    Look for more 2-candidate races inolving Independents to emerge around the state, particularly in areas where the brand of one or the other of the major parties is effectively dead.

  • iggir (unverified)
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    i grew up in Grants Pass and moved away at the first opportunity. i feel for you...it's a hell realm.

    good luck. if any of my family down there were actually Democrats, i'd send them your way.

  • Timothy Burleson (unverified)
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    That's untrue. Keith Wangle is running hard against Richardson as an Independent.

    My apologies, Sal. I had not heard of Keith and he is not listed in my voters' pamphlet. I'll take a look at his site and publish the link on my site as well.

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    Hey thanks Tim. Minor party and non-affiliated candidates do not appear in the primary voter's pamphlet because only the major parties are permitted to participate in the state-funded primary election (caveat: non-partisan races, such as some county commissioner seats).

  • Lori (unverified)
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    Demo's are inching up in Josephine county too. look for Josephine county to turn blue in the next five years! The looks of Grants Pass are changing. Investors are calling it the next Ashland.

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